Cultivation Joy part 3: Family Principles

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”– Mark Twain

For this week’s post, I could have taken part 2 and amplified it to include others in your life. Yet, that would seem too easy. We will walk through some basic principles that are the foundation for joy to manifest in a family setting for today’s post. 

Belonging & Community: Families that thrive in joy have a deep relationship with themselves and their community. Regardless of personality type or demographics (religion, nationality, age, or gender), a person’s greatest need (yearning) is to be seen, heard, validated, and understood. Joy appears in the places where a person can be their authentic self and share their uniqueness with others (see post: The Balance: Authenticity & Belonging). The beautiful thing about environments that support authenticity is they allow the individuals to grow at their own pace and in their own way. Safe environments are fertile soil where joy can take root.

Nature: Spend time as a family outside in nature. Make it an automatic for your children (and you) to spend time outside each day (regardless of weather). Nature can alleviate all anxiety and depression. It increases resilience, self-image, and the ability to engage socially. The long story short on nature is that it heals the brain. As we spend time in nature, we are stimulated by all of our senses. This is because nature is not a controlled environment. Sights, sounds, and obstacles happen all on their own, and we have to navigate them. Nature prompts us to forget about the self (think of all the times you got completely lost in something and forgot self and time…..this only happens through joy. It never happens when the brain is fixated on the self with anxiety). 

Next time in nature, watch your children…I bet you they are playing fully at the moment and not consumed with thoughts of self. And as such, they most likely are exhibiting spontaneous acts of joy.

Sense of Higher Power: Higher power can mean different things to different people. You may have your own definition (God, religion, spiritual sense, or philosophical constructs), but we will define it at a high level for our purposes here. Higher power is that life is greater than the individual. No matter how much we learn or discover, we will never have all the answers on why we are here and what this life is all about. Overall, there is something greater at play than what our minds can comprehend. Allow time to contemplate the mystery of it all and how we each fit beautifully into life’s continual play. Having an understanding of a higher power or higher-order prompts us to keep things in perspective. Maintaining an element of mystery in our lives allows life to shine its novelty and can even pull us out of our darkest moments. Having a sense of high power allows us to savor the time we embrace those around us.

Risk: Risk is important because it pushes the soul. I don’t mean risking of life but trying things even when the outcome is unknown. When we push forward and don’t know how it will end, we are experiencing life fully. We live on the edge and feel truly alive. Think of some of the greatest moments of your life. I bet most of what you can think of contains an element of risk and the unknown. Big and small victories in our life contain the element of risk.

Risk is crucial for children’s development (see post: 5 “Dangerous” Things Your Kids Should Do and Outdoors and Unsupervised…Let ’em Play). Life is full of risks and challenges, and children need opportunities to develop skills in managing risk and making informed judgments about risk. Risk in play helps children to develop important life skills that pay-off later in life. Risk management is an essential building block that all children should practice. 

Humor and Play: I love to be a goofy dad whenever I can. Making my kids laugh is one of the greatest treasures of fatherhood. We also play a lot of games…even chores we turn into a fun activity. Creating environments where humor and play are the norms allows joy to manifest and become habitual. For more information on creating more laughter, check out the post:  5 Ways to Increase Laughter in Your Home.

“Laughter is the GPS of the spirit. It is the sun that drives winter from the human face. It grounds us in a place of hope and is a source of creativity.” -Jeanine Fitzgerald. 

There is nothing better than creating joyous experiences for you and your family. As you go through your day, reflect on those things that bring you joy or that you get completely lost in. It is those things that will provide you guidance on building environments where joy is the norm.

Be well


Photo by Karina Thomson via Unsplash

Cultivating Joy part 2: Personal Habits

Last week we covered the main difference between happiness and joy. As a super light recap, happiness is something that we chase and is fleeting (cannot hold on to), while joy emerges through the process of a life well-lived (sustainable). This week we will dive into the habits shown to provide the best chance to live a fulfilled and joyous life.

Note that these bullet points are not listed in any order of significance. As you read, you may see that you already do some of these while others may seem a bit foreign…that’s ok. To plant the seeds of a joyous life, you do not need to master all of these. Usually, if you are progressing on a few, the benefits will show. 

  • Work towards a dream, vision, or a goal. Why do you wake in the morning? When you add up all of your actions throughout the day, where is it taking you? When we have a vision for our life, we have a star to guide us. Also, we can have many different goals (big and small) or destinations along the way. Those tethered to a goal/dream experience less depression and anxiety as they walk with purpose. 

I can personally attest to this. Before following my dream, my life was a grind. My pursuits, while fun, often left me hollow when achieved. Take time to build goals to aim towards. Doing this will breathe oxygen into your life.

  • Move! I could have stated exercise here, but that word tends to come with much extra baggage (routines, club memberships, pain…). Just get up and move more than you did yesterday. Moving the body immediately changes the chemistry of the mind and kicks off all of your happy chemicals. If you can, move OUTSIDE. Nature entices all of our senses and heals the mind. Go outside and smell the fresh air, hear the sounds, feel the earth under your feet. 

My personal favorite is walking. This form of exercise all of us can do. We are designed to do it, and it is magic to clear the mind of all of the unnecessary thoughts that have clogged our day.

  • Create healthy relationships by expressing gratitude often. I am sure you have heard of adopting an attitude of gratitude. Well, this really works. Gratitude puts things in perspective (what matters), and when shared with others, it strengthens relationships. We so often walk through life, thankless. I challenge you to express more gratitude each day. You will be amazed at how it changes your mindset to joy and will provide joy to others. Learn to praise and thank the ordinary (Ex. The barista provides your favorite latte perfect everyday…tell them how awesome it is). Often it is what we take for granted that needs the boost of gratitude.

On the flip side, if you have some unhealthy relationships, learn to place boundaries around them. I tend to struggle with this one. I often put too much energy into winning another person who has no desire to change or meet me halfway.  Remember: attitudes are contagious. Carry gratitude at all times and walk away from those are discordant. 

  • Maintain a positive attitude when things don’t go well. Sometimes we don’t win the game or achieve what we set out to do. This is ok, and all we need to do is keep a healthy perspective to move on. It is best to understand that winning and losing are only mindsets. Having a better attitude in any situation will create a win even when the chips are down. Either we are winning, or we are learning. Cherish our wins with gratitude and seek out the silver lining when we don’t come out on top. 
  • Be of service to others! Magic happens when you give your time, money, and attention to another. Volunteering is a wonderful way to be of service, just like moving (listed above), taking time to service to others wards off depression. Moreover, adopt a service mindset. What I mean by this is when you look at your life as a life of service (who can I help now?), we drop the habitual attitude of narcissism. Life becomes fulfilling when we look at our lives as a part of a whole instead of the vacuum of me, me, me, attitude.
  • Take full responsibility for your life and don’t take things personally. This point, I can write another post on (and most likely will). There are no victims in life. Everything that we have decided and chosen to do has brought us to this moment…and brought the results that we are experiencing now. Take ownership of your past, present, and future. Even if you believe in victimhood, it is better to adopt an ownership attitude. Taking full responsibility gives you control and places you in the driver’s seat. Own your life and drive it to the destination you have defined above (Vision, Dreams, Goals).

Taking on this attitude helped me pull myself out of a serious depression about twenty years ago. I cannot stress this point enough and the power it will give you. Ownership clears out all of the self-defeating excuses. It also makes the journey more rewarding as your life unfolds. Certainly, we cannot control the world and how it interacts with us, but we can own how we move and take action (or reaction) from now on.

Hopefully, you have found a couple of habits to work on here. These are tried and true in my life. The results of these habits have spoken for themselves in my day today. Not every day is perfect, but I find myself with a sunny disposition more often than not! 

Next week we will elevate these concepts to parenting and the home environment. Stay tuned….

Be well


Photo by Anastasia Petrova via Unsplash

Home Culture Part 4: Wellness for All

Wellness is a balance of the external and internal environments of a person

Through this series, we have identified our values, taken a look at our personalities, and reviewed how trust is built between people. This post will put it all together and discuss elements of a home filled with wellness.

A household that operates in full wellness is functioning with authenticity while providing feelings of belonging. The household’s environment ensures everyone’s needs are met, and they are safe to be their authentic self.

“Wellness is not the absence of adversities, but intentionally designing the conditions of an environment to support optimal functioning.” – Jeanine Fitzgerald.

The importance of identifying household values is that the family can get on the same page and aim in the same direction. By understanding these values, a family can align its short and long-term actions to them. A family can also correct or eliminate any areas of non-alignment.

By understanding our own nature (personality) and the nature of the other members of our home, we can ensure that we develop a deep connection. When we develop a deep connection with each other, we honor their authenticity while providing a sense of belonging (remember: people gravitate to where they feel most acknowledged and accepted). Out of this, each member of the family can derive meaning and a purpose for their life. 

Values, personality identification, and trust-building are all internal elements of wellness. What about the external? 

What is the perfect physical home environment? There is no perfect recipe that works for all households. In fact, every home will have its own ingredients for success and wellness. Here are some tips that can help you build an environment that draws out the best in its members:

  • D/I personalities are often on the move. Look to create areas of open space so flowing movement can happen. 
  • S/C personalities? Look to create areas where concentration and solitude can be found.
  • Keep the environment flexible as the house should change with the changing needs of the individuals. My wife and I have had four living room set-up changes since our kids were born (oldest is 7).
  • Artwork, decorations, and themed rooms should all align with the values of the household. By creating visual harmony, we subtly reinforce household values and create an appropriate tone for day-to-day living.
  • Work through your house’s rooms and analyze your stuff (furniture, decorations, and space usage). Remove items that hold no value or get in the way of optimal wellness—less stuff=more freedom.
  • Allow your kids to create their own room design. This is a fun activity where kids can figure out what they like best. Allow them to change often to test things out. 

Hopefully, this series has provided some value for you. Keep in mind that life and parenting are not games where perfection can be achieved. Life and parenting are more about constant discovery and continuous learning. By using your values as guidance and cultivating your relationships, you can develop strong resiliency and wellness of all home members.

Be well


Photo by Michal Parzuchowski via Unsplash